Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Willow - Julia Hoban

Summary: Seven months ago on a rainy March night, Willow's parents drank too much wine at dinner and asked her to drive them home. But they never made it--Willow lost control of the car, and both of her parents were killed.

Now seventeen, Willow is living iwth her older brother, who can barely speak to her. She has left behind her old home, friends, and school. But Willow has found a way to survive, to numb the new reality fo her life: She is secretly cutting herself.

And then she meets Guy, a boy as sensitive and complicated as she is. When Guy discovers Willow's secret, he pulls her out of the solitary world she's created for herself, and int a difficult, intense, and potentially life-changing relationship. (Photo from barnesandnoble.com - Summary from book jacket)

My review: I’m not entirely sure what to think, or say, about this book. I can’t say that I loved reading it, thought it reminded me a lot of “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Willow, at it’s heart, is a book about overwhelming emotional pain and the lengths to which a young girl will go to survive it. When Willow runs into Guy, a fellow classmate, and he learns her secret, she is forced out into a world she isn’t remotely equipped to handle. Willows pain is graphic and all encompassing. It is so obvious that she is barely holding things together and I really felt for her as a character even though the disturbing subject matter was hard for me to fathom. At first, Guy feels obligated to keep her safe, but as the two spend more time together, their relationship grows in an unexpected (okay, so entirely expected) direction. After all the pain, it was comforting to see her life creeping back into place and returning to a shadow of teenage normalcy.

However, just as I was thinking that this book was a raw, realistic glimpse into the life of a cutter and perhaps would be a good book to recommend to someone dealing with the issue—I read the last chapter and got a bad taste in my mouth (SEE SPOILER). I only know of one person who has had issues with cutting, and my understanding is that the desire to cut stems from an almost inescapable need to control something in a world that seems to be spinning out of control. It also has the effect of temporarily overriding emotional pain and replacing it with a more manageable physical pain. If you know someone with this problem, I suggest reading it first, so that you can decide if it’s appropriate to recommend.

SPOILER: It seems that all it takes to give up the extremely addictive, psychological problem of cutting oneself is to get a really nice, patient boyfriend who is a great listener and then, at just the right time, have sex with him. Guy invested so much time drawing Willow out of her own world of self-inflicted pain that to see her miraculously healed by a sexual catalyst was actually a little offensive.

My Rating: 3 Stars. For the sensitive reader: This book contained occasional outbursts of language (of the PG-13 and R variety) and one sexual situation (that, if it were in a movie, would be as close to PG as you could get). Contains mature themes involving self-mutilation (cutting) and addiction.

To sum it up: A raw and seemingly realistic portrayal of the difficulties of dealing with catastrophic loss, grief, and pain--with a somewhat disappointing twist.


Unknown said...

I thought this book was absolutely amazing (:

Anonymous said...

I know this is an old post but I have just recently read this book while in the hospital. As someone that struggles on a daily basis, I really connected with the main character. It is a very accurate glimpse of the pain many people go through each and every day. I didn't see the ending as Willow being miraculously healed. Rather, her relationship and his understanding, patience, and kindness give her a tiny bit of strength to refrain for just that moment. To me, I feel that it's likely that Willow cuts again, but hopefully with decreasing frequency. I know I'm not completely ok, but the few people who have shown great kindness to me recently has given me some peace. I still relapse, it happens, but it's easier to not fall as far and to get back up if you have even one person that really listens and takes the time to understand.

MindySue said...

Thank you Anonymous for sharing with us. Your comment really gives added perspective to such a complex situation.


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